ARLINGTON, Va. -- A little less than 48 hours after the Washington Capitals were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 2-0 loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round to the Pittsburgh Penguins, they were still struggling with what went wrong and what needs to be changed going forward.
"That's the million-dollar question, ain't it?" defenseman Matt Niskanen said.
After winning the Presidents' Trophy for a second straight season, the Capitals again failed to advance to the conference final.
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"This is a pretty good window that we had here, and unfortunately it's not there anymore," defenseman Karl Alzner said.
Some players suggested the Capitals' problems might go deeper than personnel.
"I don't know if minor cosmetic changes are going to change anything, really," Niskanen said. "It's pretty clear that this group didn't get it done, so what changes and how many or what level of changes, I don't know what the answer is. Talent-wise and our potential is clearly there. That's all fluff now. We need results."
In the 12 seasons Alex Ovechkin has been with the Capitals, they've won seven division titles and the Presidents' Trophy three times but have never won more than one playoff round. It was another disappointment for the core players, who underachieved again.
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"We've been here for a long time, and it's the same thing over and over again," center Nicklas Backstrom said.
After last season, Washington knew most of the same players would be back this season to get another shot at the Stanley Cup. That likely won't be the case next season with unrestricted free agency looming for forwards Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie, and defensemen Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Coach Barry Trotz seemed more optimistic about the future than many players did but said he hadn't slept much for two days.
"When something doesn't go your way, you can do one other thing," Trotz said. "You can roll up in a ball and feel sorry for yourself. I don't. I get angry and I'm going to try to fix the problem. I'm going to try to get better, because if I don't, then we're not going to get better."
General manager Brian MacLellan, Trotz and the staff have a long offseason ahead and many decisions to make before next season begins.
"We need to find a way to do different because it didn't work, it hasn't worked," goalie Braden Holtby said. "When something doesn't work, you find ways to get better and we have the people here to do it."